Staff Writer

The Namibia Airports Company (NAC) is set to embark on urgent rehabilitation works for its ‘expired’ runway at Eros Airport, with the airstrip having exceeded its design life of 25 years.

This comes as the airports operator has resorted to daily inspections of the runway which has now developed potholes and has become bumpy for aircraft when landing and taking off. Although the runway is still safe, the repairs are a part of safety measures.

The project which is set to commence this month at a cost of N$25 million, when completed, will add an additional lifeline of between 3-4 years.

“Daily inspections are conducted to identify areas that require immediate maintenance to ensure that the pavements are safe for operation. A contractor has since been appointed for remedial work on the runway in August 2020. These short-term works will address the bumpy runway and potholes which have developed over the years. This remedial work will carry the runway for about three to four years,” NAC Spokesperson Dan Kamati told the Windhoek Observer.

NAC has resorted to patching the runway and taxiways that were built in 1970s as a stop gap measure while the parent Ministry of Works and Transport looks at how to address the issue. Insiders say the move is not a permanent or longer term solution for the aging runways at various airports in Namibia, that is preferable. It is unsustainable going forward.

“The remedial works are expected to commence in August 2020 over period of three months. The long term measures on the Runway Rehabilitation project are affected by the current economic situation affected by COVID – 19. We await the necessary approvals,” he said.

Among the long-term rehabilitation work expected for the airport, would be the widening and lengthening of the existing runway, a project which will require capital funding from the Ministry of Transport and Works.

“The Rehabilitation Project for the Eos Airport Runway will be funded by Central Government,” Kamati said.

Kamati said the closure of air traffic due to COVID-19 travel restrictions has hit its operations and revenues hard.

“Airport Operations are funded through the generation of aeronautical and non-aeronautical revenue which has collapsed as a result of the travel bans and restrictions imposed by various governments amidst the pandemic. The crisis continues to steeply suppress our revenue and no one can say with certainty for how long this situation will continue. Nevertheless, the NAC has an obligation to render airport operations for humanitarian, repatriation and cargo operations and these activities continue to induce significant costs to the NAC. Currently we have taken a decision to reduce costs on non-core operations and discretionary spending while ensuring safe and secure operations during these turbulent times in ensuring that we continue to fulfill our mandate,” he said.

The airport, besides being preferred by private airplane users and for domestic routes, is also used by President Hage Geingob and other high-level dignitaries for private aircraft.

Windhoek is currently serviced by two airports. The conveniently located Eros Airport caters for domestic flights, while Hosea Kutako International Airport, located 40km out of town, services international arrivals and departures.